By Errol Castens and JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
Thursday in Northeast Mississippi began with a region-wide freeze along with lingering ice in some parts and as much as three inches of new snowfall in others, bringing one traffic fatality and a slew of mishaps.
By afternoon, the weather over most of the region transitioned to clearing skies, sunshine and temperatures that rose to near 50 degrees, with prospects of mostly sunny days in the 40s and 50s for most of a week.
Law enforcement agencies in Starkville and Oktibbeha County reported several minor accidents, and private and public schools across the county closed for the day. Mississippi State University was open, but officials urged any students or employees to stay home if their roads were treacherous.
Apparently the worst accident in the region was that of a West Point resident, 64-year-old Johnnie Matthews, who was killed on Highway 50 in Lowndes County. His Chevrolet S-10 hit a fallen tree that was suspended above the roadway.
“He struck it windshield high,” said Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant. Several wrecks occurred in the same spot, Merchant said, though none was nearly as severe.
Trooper Ray Hall of Troop F in New Albany said mid- to late morning on Thursday “got really busy,” noting that Highway 78 near the Lee/Itawamba line was the busiest area.
MHP Cpl. Criss Turnipseed said Troop G, based in Starkville, worked 19 wrecks that required paperwork and assisted with many more tows of vehicles that skidded off roads.
Tupelo Police Cpl. Phillip Sanderson noted some snow accumulation in east Tupelo but said roads were fine.
Lee County Emergency Management Director Lee Bowdry said besides a few wrecks in the county and a bus slipping off County Road 814, the weather didn’t cause any problems. Lee County Schools Superintendent Jimmy Weeks said the bus was heading to Verona Elementary School when it slid on Town Creek Bridge and bounced against a guard rail. The four students on board were uninjured.
The National Weather Service extended a flood warning for the Buttahatchie River, which includes parts of Monroe and Lowndes counties, indefinitely. It is forecast to crest today without going over Air Base Road.
Another flood warning, for Tibbee Creek in Clay County, was extended until Sunday at noon. A spokesman for Clay County Emergency Management said there were no reports of the creek’s threatening any roads or houses.